Disney recently came out with a new movie called Moana, an adorable children’s movie about a Polynesian princess and her journey with a demigod, Maui, to help save her people from starvation. Children are raving about this movie, and despite how adorable and fun it is, it has some hidden ideas in it that are interesting to explore. In the movie, Moana’s father is chief of an island that is entirely self-sufficient, which sounds great, but comes with a lot of consequences. Not only are they self-sufficient, but they are very afraid of venturing outside of their reef. This type of isolationism is very dangerous economically, and when they run out of fish in their reef, they realized one of the unintended consequences of isolationism. According to CNN, “Even in an era of anti-globalist backlash, the studios realize that forging outward and navigating to new worlds is a necessity, not a luxury, to save their business. The movie is an example of what they can and should do.”
Many times conservatives are criticized for being “isolationists”, although conservatives have maintained more of a non-interventionist approach. According to the National Interest, “Now neoconservatives toss the same epithet at conservatives who oppose promiscuous war-making and endless foreign aid. Never mind that many opponents of today’s hyper interventionist foreign policy favor free trade, cultural exchange, liberal immigration, and political cooperation. If you do not believe in bombing, invading, and occupying adversaries and subsidizing allies, then you must be an isolationist.” Although conservative policy makers maintain a non-interventionist approach instead of isolationism, the rhetoric used among Republicans can sometimes skate the line, specifically with discussing bringing jobs back to the US and maintaining production in the country. This sounds fine, but every student that has taken basic economics knows that Adam Smith said the division of labor is limited to the extent of the market, and there is more trade opportunity and success in a larger market. It’s scary to hear people advocating for limiting our market to solve the issues we have, because this will only create more issues for the US.
That being said, in many ways an isolationist approach would be beneficial, specifically foreign policy. Rand Paul has advocated for less foreign aid in many situations, which has been considered an isolationist approach, mainly in a derogatory way. It makes a good argument fiscally to cut off a good amount of foreign aid, especially with a country that is going to add roughly $10 trillion in debt in the next 10 years. Business Insider has some interesting statistics relating to Americans’ ideas of isolationism. According to them, “At the same time, a record number of Americans think the United States is becoming less powerful on the world stage. Climbing from just 20% in 2004, 53% of Americans in 2013 felt that the U.S. was less important and powerful globally than it was a decade earlier. Intriguingly, despite general trends towards military isolationism, 66% of Americans believe that greater U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing. The U.S. military often plays a role in securing global trade and protecting the interests of its allies.”
Isolationism can refer to many aspects of policy, and with many different outcomes, whether it be economic, fiscal, or foreign policy related. Disney took the opportunity to show the unintended consequences of severe isolationism and the attempt of an island to live only on themselves. They limited their market and resources, and once their resources ran out, they were forced to give up their agenda and fish elsewhere. While it is a surface level example and Disney most likely wasn't thinking into it this much, this is a reality of our current political climate and shows the issues among the rhetoric given by both sides. A line must be drawn between isolationism and non-interventionist, and a distinction made between the differences in these policies. Hopefully the upcoming administration will make an approach toward an expanded market, and with the way President-Elect Trump’s actions have been since November 8th, there is strong possibility of taking a more free-market approach to the economic policies of our country and expanding our market to allow more economic growth, similar to the end of Moana.
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